Minnesota Legislature Passes Bill: Occupational Disease Presumed for First Responders and Healthcare Employees who Contract COVID-19

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill, which now provides certain employees the benefit of a presumed occupational disease under Minnesota workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19. Specifically, employees working in first responder or healthcare occupations will be presumed eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they either test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed by a licensed physician, physician’s assistance, or APRN without a test. In the situations where a test has not been done, a copy of the written documentation of the diagnosis shall be provided to the Employer and Insurer. The following occupations fall into this presumption:

 

  • Firefighter
  • Paramedic
  • Nurses or Healthcare Worker
  • Correctional Officer/Security Counselor at Minnesota Correctional Facilities
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Healthcare provider, nurse, or assistant employed with home care or long-term setting
  • Workers required to provide child care to first responders and health care workers

 

In summary, if an employee shows that he or she works within one of these occupations and either tests positive for or is diagnosed with COVID-19, the burden of proof will shift to the employer and insurer to rebut the presumption. Employers and insurers will still be able to show that the employment was not a direct cause of the disease, however it will be much more difficult to prevail on a denial of liability when one of these types of employees contract COVID-19.

 

To note, the date of injury in these situations shall be the date the employee is no longer able to work due to a diagnosis of COVID-19 or due to the symptoms later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurs first.

 

For all other employees not included in the list above, claims can still be pursued under an occupational disease or personal injury theory. Under these types of claims, the employees will not entitled to the presumption described above, and will be held to the burden of proof.

 

This law goes into effect immediately.

 

Please feel free to contact a CWK attorney with any questions on this new bill, and be sure to note any ongoing claims involving an employee in one of these types of occupations. You can read the full version of the law here: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/MNHOUSEGOP/2020/04/06/file_attachments/1419792/COVID%20Workers%20Comp%20Draft–final%20%285APR2020%29%20%281%29.pdf

 

Summary by Parker T. Olson